Advice for Private Rented Tenants
Section 21 notice
If you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), your landlord does not have to give a reason for ending your tenancy. However, if you have not been given the correct information at the start of the tenancy, or if your landlord is not following the correct procedure to end the tenancy, there may be a delay before you need to move. This could buy you important time to find somewhere else to live.
When can the notice be served?
A landlord must wait until 4 months after the tenancy start date before serving a notice asking you to leave. Any Section 21 notice served before then will be invalid.
What does the notice look like?
All Section 21 notices must be in writing and give at least two months’ notice to leave. Your contract may specify that a longer notice period should be given in which case, the notice period must comply with the contract.
The notice must be in a specific format and the notice can be completed on a Form 6A. If this form has not been used then the notice must contain exactly the same wording. You can see a copy of this form here.
Have you been given the right information?
In most cases, your landlord is required to provide you with certain information, including;
- a gas safety certificate (if you have a gas supply to your home)
- an energy performance certificate
- a booklet called ‘How to rent’ (the version which was current at the time your tenancy started or was renewed)
If you've been served a Section 21 notice and want to seek help from us, you should get all of the information you were given together, including that listed above if you were given it.
Have you complained about the properties condition?
The landlord should not attempt to evict you for making a formal complaint about poor conditions. If you've successfully complained to us because your landlord has not fixed an issue to your home, in certain circumstances you cannot be served with a valid notice for up to 6 months afterwards. An exception would be if the landlord genuinely wants to sell, or if the property is being repossessed.
How long is the notice valid for?
A Section 21 notice must not be served on a tenant within 4 months of the start of the tenancy. For replacement tenancies (a new tenancy with the same parties and the same property) a Section 21 notice cannot be served within 4 months of when the original tenancy began.
Once a Section 21 notice has been given under a fixed term Assured Shorthold Tenancy or a periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancy (that runs from week to week or month to month) possession proceedings must be started within 6 months of the date the notice was given.
If the notice is valid when it's served, your notice will only be valid for 6 months from the date it was issued (if you have a 6 or 12 month fixed term tenancy). The landlord cannot ask the court to give them possession of the property if the valid period has expired and your landlord must issue a fresh notice.
What should I do next?
If you've been served with a notice and you're unable to resolve the problems that has led your landlord to serve you with notice, or you don't believe you will be able to find alternative accommodation by the expiry of your notice, it is important that you seek the help of your local council.
Please also see our Section 21: Self-help pack that is full of practical help and ideas to help you try to solve the problem that may have led to your landlord or agent wanting you to leave.
Have you paid a deposit?
If your landlord has charged a breakages deposit (not just rent in advance), your landlord should have protected your deposit by lodging it in one of three approved schemes in the first month of the tenancy. If this was not done properly, your landlord cannot issue a valid notice until your deposit is returned to you in full. If your landlord does not repay the deposit and takes you to court, you could mount a defense that could mean you can stay in the property and get some compensation up to three times your deposit amount.
Your housing costs are a priority
If money is very short, there are a few costs that you must make certain that you meet – like your housing costs. If you're evicted from your home for rent arrears and cannot get a good landlord reference, it can be very difficult to find somewhere else to live.
The first thing you should do is to complete a budget sheet, so that you know where your money is going. You may be able to make some adjustments to non-essential outgoings. You can use your budget in later negotiations with your landlord, if necessary. You can find useful budget sheets on the National Debt line website.
The Citizens Advice will be able to help you with budgeting advice if you need help.
Finding additional income
You do not need to be unemployed to be eligible for benefits – there's help available to bolster your household income if you are on a low wage. You may also be eligible for a contribution towards your rent. You can check your entitlement online on GOV.UK.
Make sure you have the following details ready:
- income, including your partner’s (from payslips, for example)
- existing benefits and pensions (including anyone living with you)
- outgoings (such as rent, childcare payments)
- council tax bill
Tell your landlord you're having difficulty
Negotiating with your landlord about catching up with missed rent payments and keeping your home is always easiest if you contact them as early as possible and let them know that you're taking steps to sort things out.
If you're already in arrears, use your budget sheet to work out what you can afford to offer on top of your rent even if it is only a few pounds. Be realistic with any offer you make to your landlord because it's important that you keep to your agreement.
A landlord is entitled to charge a deposit at the start of a tenancy.
This deposit gives them access to a sum of money to cover their costs if you damage the property or fail to pay all the rent. You might expect this deposit to be equivalent to around two months’ rent. This is a separate sum to rent in advance. Most landlords will ask for the first month’s rent to be paid upfront in addition.
An inventory is a list of all the items in the property, and the condition they are in before you move in. It's a good idea to take photographs, particularly if there's any existing damage which the landlord does not intend to put right before you move in. Make sure you have written records of all the rent payments you make, or that they show clearly on your bank statement if you pay by Direct Debit or bank transfer.
To make a claim against the deposit, the landlord must be able to show that there has been damage, or that there has been a breach of the tenancy agreement conditions.
To avoid any disagreements at the end of the tenancy, you should ask for an inventory from the landlord and you should both sign it.
Protecting your deposit
If your landlord has taken a deposit from you, they must protect it by lodging it with one of three independent schemes within the first 30 days of the tenancy.
This makes it easier for you to get back any money you're legitimately owed at the end of the tenancy. If there's a dispute between you and your landlord about how much you should be given back, the deposit protection scheme administrators will decide what is correct.
Your landlord should tell you which scheme they have placed your deposit in.
Could my landlord be exempt from these rules?
If your tenancy began before 6th April 2007, and it's a periodic tenancy (one that rolls on from month to month), your landlord does not need to protect your deposit. However, if your landlord wants to bring your tenancy to an end with a Section 21 notice, they must first protect or return your deposit.
If you have rented your property for 6 years or more, you should check if you landlord has complied with the rules applicable to your tenancy type. You can find out more about tenancy deposit protection rules on the Shelter's website.
What if my landlord has not complied?
If your tenancy deposit has not been properly protected and your landlord will not repay it, you can apply to the local county court. The court may decide that you're entitled to compensation of up to 3 times the amount of the deposit.
Failure to protect the deposit will also prevent your landlord from evicting you from the property. If they serve you with a Section 21 Notice and your deposit has not protected or your deposit has not been repaid, you can defend the eviction in court as the notice will not be valid.
What happens at the end of my tenancy?
At the end of the tenancy, your landlord should agree with you how much of your deposit should be repaid to you. They should pay you this amount within 10 days of it being agreed. If you cannot reach agreement, you can apply to your tenancy deposit protection scheme’s dispute resolution service. You should provide as much evidence as possible.
If you want to apply to dispute resolution service, choose the relevant scheme below:
What if my deposit was paid by someone else?
Most councils have schemes to help people with insufficient savings for a deposit. They may offer loans, or provide a guarantee that any money owed by the tenant (for breakages and other costs covered by the deposit) will be paid.
If a deposit has been paid, it must be protected, even if it was paid on your behalf by a council loan scheme, or by a family member.
Harassment and illegal eviction
What's an illegal eviction?
It's a criminal offence for your landlord to evict you without following the correct legal steps for eviction.
Most private rented tenants have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. If your landlord wants to bring the arrangement to an end, they need to serve you with proper notice, and then go to court to evict you if you haven not been able to move out sooner.
To end an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the landlord must serve you with a valid Section 21 notice and/or a Section 8 notice. Your landlord doe not need to give a reason for evicting you if they serve a Section 21 notice, but they must give at least two months’ notice. When the notice period ends, they can start the court procedure to have you evicted – you do not have to move on the day the notice expires.
Unless the landlord serves a valid notice, applies to court for possession, and then gets a bailiff’s warrant, they cannot insist that you move.
What counts as an illegal eviction?
The landlord has no right to put pressure on you. It's illegal to change the locks without a formal eviction having taken place. It's also illegal to interfere with your belongings, cut off essential supplies such as electricity or water, or harass you in any similar way.
It's usually an illegal eviction if your landlord:
- forces you to leave by threatening or harassing you
- physically throws you out
- stops you from getting into certain parts of your home
- changes the locks while you're out
What I can do?
You should contact our Housing and Health Team on 01622 602440. We may look to assist you by negotiating with your landlord to try to get you back into your home or by prosecuting your landlord for illegal eviction.
You should call the police if you're being illegally evicted by a private landlord and your landlord is violent or threatens violence.
Call 999 if a crime is happening now or someone is in immediate danger.
Your landlord is responsible for fixing most repair problems in your rented home. This applies to private, council and housing association landlords. However, you should check your tenancy agreement as it should include details of who is responsible for repair problems.
Landlord's repair responsibilities
Your landlord must do the repairs the law says they are responsible for, even if your agreement says something different. Your landlord's responsibilities include:
- the structure and exterior of the building, including the walls, stairs and bannisters, roof, external doors and windows
- sinks, baths, toilets, pipes and drains
- heating and hot water
- chimneys and ventilation
- gas appliances
- electrical wiring
Your landlord is also responsible for repairing the common parts of a building, such as entrance halls, communal stairways and shared kitchens.
Tenant's responsibility responsibilities
You must use your home in a responsible way. You should:
- keep it clean
- not damage the property and make sure your guests don't either
- carry out minor maintenance such as replacing smoke alarm batteries
- keep chimneys and ventilation free of blockages
You usually are responsible for minor repairs, such as changing a light bulb or replacing a fuse. Your landlord is not responsible for fixing any appliances or furniture you own. They are your responsibility.
You probably have to pay for repairs if you cause damage to the property, even if it's accidental. You shouldn't have to pay for normal wear and tear to your home.
My landlord will not do the repairs?
Before you decide what steps to take, make sure you report any repair problems to your landlord or letting agent and give them a reasonable time to do the work. You can tell them about the repair problem in person, by phone or text. You should also email or write to them to confirm the details too. Keep a record of the repairs needed.
If your landlord has failed to do repairs, you can arrange for the repairs to be done and deduct the cost from your rent. You must follow the correct legal procedure. If you do not you could be evicted and have to repay all the rent owed. Get advice before you decide to do this.
You should only use this procedure for minor repairs. You're responsible for the work that's carried out. If repairs are done badly you'll have to pay to put things right.
If you've given your landlord reasonable time to carry out the repairs and they fail to take action you can make a complaint to our Housing and Health Team.
My landlord is trying to evict me after asking for repairs
Some landlords may take steps to evict tenants who complain about repairs or poor conditions This is known as a retaliatory eviction.
You may have some protection against revenge eviction if you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. For more information about revenge eviction on the Shelter's website.